What are the reasons for automatic unfair dismissal?

Stephen Britton

07 August 2017

Automatic unfair dismissal occurs when someone is dismissed and that dismissal violates the employee’s statutory legal rights.
In most cases, reasons for dismissal are considered automatically unfair because they violate one or more of an employee’s statutory employment rights. There are approximately 60 grounds for which an employee can claim automatic unfair dismissal. We have listed the most common circumstances below:

  • pregnancy, including all reasons relating to maternity
  • family, including parental leave, paternity leave (birth and adoption), adoption leave or time off for dependants
  • acting as an employee representative
  • acting as a trade union representative
  • joining or not joining a trade union
  • being a part-time or fixed-term employee
  • discrimination
  • acting as a health and safety representative
  • pay and working hours, including the Working Time Regulations, annual leave, and the National Minimum Wage
  • whistleblowing
  • asserting a Statutory right

There are some reasons for dismissal which the employment tribunal will decide are automatically unfair and it will be regardless of the length of time the employee has worked for the employer.
Statutory right are employment rights given to employees and workers by Acts of Parliament rather than through the contract of employment.

Expert employment solicitor Stephen Britton explains and answers some questions on unfair dismissal.

Can an employee ask for detailed reason for dismissal?

The employee can ask the employer to provide written reasons for the dismissal. If the employee has especially qualifying service normally two years in the case of unfair dismissal then the employer is obliged to provide a written statement of reasons.
The written statement has to be provided within 14 days of the date of the request. There is no statutory provision to explain how detailed those reasons have to be, so the reasons that the employer provides can be as limited as they feel is appropriate.
There is an exception to the requirement for qualified service in the case of employees who are dismissed whilst pregnant or during the period of adoption or maternity leave, they are entitled to be provided with a written reason for the dismissal without having made a request for a reason and without being to have a particular qualifying service.

What reasons for dismissal are automatically unfair?

There are a number of reasons for dismissal that are automatically unfair and it's difficult for me just to provide a list but the most common reasons that an automatically unfair are where the employee is being dismissed for having blown the whistle or in other words made a Public Interest Disclosure or have been dismissed for asserting a statutory right and/or dismissed for being pregnant. Those are the typical reasons which are normally relied upon as being automatically unfair in those cases no qualifying service is required to be able to present a claim.

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